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tages even of the heathen world as sufficient to lead them to the true knowledge of God, and a perfect conformity to bis law, but for their want of a good temper, and their voluntary aversion to God and love to sin, we easily see whence it is that the external advantages of those who enjoy the benefit of a divine revelation, together with other outward means of grace, are represented as being much more than barely sufficient; and consequently their guilt in remaining impenitent and upholy, as being doubly aggravated.
And before I leave this point, I must make one remark more, namely, that if the advantages of the heathen world were sufficient, but for their want of a good temper, their voluntary aversion to God and love to sin, to lead them to the true knowledge of God, and a perfect conformity to his law, as has been proved, then God was not under any natural obligations to grant to any of mankind any supernatural advantages, but still might justly have required sinless perfection of all, and threatened eternal damnation for the least defect; I say, God was under no natural obligations, i. e. ang obligations arising from his nature and perfections: for he might, consistent with his holiness, justice, and goodness, have left all mankind to themselves, without any supernatural advantages, since their natural advantages were sufficient, and they were obstinate in their ignorance, blindness, and wickedness. Most certainly God was not bound to have sent his Son, his spirit, his word, his messengers, and entreat and beseech those who perfectly hated him, and hated to hear from bim, and were disposed to crucify his Son, resist his spirit, pervert his word, and kill his messengers, to turn and love him, and serve bim ; but might, even consistent with infinite goodness itself, have let them take their course, and go on in the way they were set in, and have damned them all at last.
All that the great and glorious Governor of the world requires of mankind, in the law of nature, is that they love him with all their hearts and souls, and live as brethren together in his world; which is infinitely reasonable in itself, and which they have sufficient natural powers to do. And he has stretched abroad the heavens as a curtain over their heads, which declare the glory of the Lord; and in the earth,
and in all his works, his perfections are clearly to be seen, so that all are under sufficient advantages for the knowledge of him; but mankind hate God, and say unto the Almighty, Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of thy ways: and hence they still remain ignorant of God, averse to him, and in love with sin. And now, I say, it is as evident as the sun at noon day, that God might fairly have damned such creatures, without using any more means with them. His law being thus upon a perfect level with their natural powers and natural advantages, he was not obliged, as he was the righteous and good Governor of the world, to grant them any supernatural assistance, either outward, by an external revelation, or inward, by the internal influences of his Holy Spirit: and therefore it is, that the great ruler of the world has always acted sovereignly and arbitrarily in these matters, bestowing these supernatural favours upon whom he pleases, as being obliged to none. Thus he has done as to the external revelation : Psalm cxlvii. 19, 20. “He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation, and as for his judgments, they have not known them.” And thus he has done as to the internal influences of his spirit. Mat. xi. 25, 26. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” And thus God, even to this day, as to both outward and inward helps, hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion. He effectually sends the gospel to one nation, and not to another; and where the gospel is preached, he, by his Spirit, awakens, convinces, humbles, converts whom he plcases, and leaves the rest.
And thus the objection, from the heathen's not having sufficient outward advantages, has been answered; and, from the answer, I have taken occasion to make these, (I hope,) not unprofitable remarks; and may now return and repeat my former assertion, with still higher degrees of assurance, viz.that mankind are altogether to blamie for, and entirely inexcusable in their non-conformity to the holy law of God, VOL. I.
and therefore justly deserve damnation ; and that even the heathen, as well as others.
Thus have I endeavoured to show what is the exact measure of love and obedience that God requires of the children of men, and that all mankind have sufficient natural powers and outward advantages, and that all their blindness, ignorance, and wickedness, are voluntary, chosen, and loved. And I have been the larger upon these things, in order to clear up the justice of God and his law, and the grace of God in his gospel--both which have been sadly misrepresented by those who have not aright anderstood or well attended to these things. They have said that it is not just in God to require sinless perfection of mankind, or dainn any for the want of it. They have said that the law is abated and brought down to a level with (I hardly know what, unless I call it) the vitiated, depraved temper of an apostate world, who both hate God and his holy law, and want an act of toleration and indulgence to be passed in favour of their corruptions, that, at heart, they may remain dead in sin, and yet, by a round of external duties, be secured from damnation at last : And so they have, like the Pharisees of old, (Mat. v.) destroyed the law by their abatements; and now the law, only by which is the knowledge of sin, being thus laid aside, they are ignorant of their sinful, guilty, helpless, undone state, and so are insensible of their need of the sovereign grace of God, through Jesus Christ, to save them; and fancy they are well disposed enough to turn to God of their own accord. And having imbibed such notions of religion, they easily see that the better sort of heathen have, for substance, the same religion with themselves, and therefore have equal charity for them : not being really sensible of their need of gospel-grace for themselves, they have full charity for the heathen, who never so much as heard of it. But what I have said is sufficient, I think, to clear the justice of God in his law, and the grace of God in the gospel, and sweep away this refuge of lies, by which so many gladly quiet their consciences, and wofully deceive their own souls. However, of these things
, we shall still have something more afterwards.
Thus we have gone through what was proposed ; have considered what was implied in love to God, and from what motives we are to love him, and what measure of love is required : and all that has been said cannot possibly be summed up in fewer or plainer words than these, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: This is the first and great commandment; in conformity whereunto the first and great part of religion does consist. And the second, which is like unto it, being the foundation of the other half of (this part of,) religion, (now under consideration,) is, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; which is what we are, in the next place, to proceed to a consideration of.
OP LOVE TO OUR NEIGHBOUR.
II. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. In which words we have (1.) the duty required; Thou shalt love. (2.) The original, natural ground and reason of it intimated; Thy neighbour ; which name, given to our fellow-men, may lead us to consider them as being what they are in themselves, and as sustaining soine kind of character and relation with regard to us. (3.) The rule and standard by which our love to our neighbour is to be regulated; As thyself. Here, therefore, we may consider what is implied in love to our neighbour : from what motives we are to love him, and by what standard our love is to be regulated, as to its nature and measure.
First. Let us consider what is implied in that love to our neighbour, which, by the law of God, is required of us. And, in general, it is pre-supposed, or implied, that we have a right temper of mind; an upright, impartial, candid, benevolent temper, even to perfection, without the least tincture of
any thing to the contrary; for, without this, we shall not, we cannot, view our neighbours in a true light; nor think of them, nor judge of them, nor feel towards them, exactly as we ought. A wrong temper, a selfish, partial, uncandid, censorious, carping, bitter, stingy, proud temper, will unavoidably give a wrong turn to all our thoughts of, and feeling towards our neighbours; as is manifest from the nature of the thing, and from universal experience. Solomon observes, that as a man thinketh, so is he ; and it is as true, that as a man is, so he thinketh ; for out of the heart, the temper and disposition of the man, proceed his thoughts of, and feelings towards, both persons and things, according to our Saviour. Mat. xii. 33, 34, 35. An upright, therefore impartial, candid, benevolent temper, to perfection, without the least tincture of any thing to the contrary, is pre-supposed and implied, in the love required, as being, in the nature of things, absolutely necessary thereto. We must have a right temper, and, under the influence thereof, be perfectly in a disposition to view our neighbours in a right light, and think and judge of them, and be affected towards them as we ought ; i. e. To love them as ourseloes. Particularly,
1. There is a certain esteem and value for our fellow-men, which, upon sundry accounts, is their due, that is implied in this love. There are valuable things in mankind : some have one thing, and some another; some have gifts, and some have grace ; some have five talents, and some two, and some one; some are worthy of a greater esteem, and some less, considered merely as they are in themselves: and then some are by God set in a higher station, and some in a lower, sustaining various characters, and standing in various relations; as magistrates and subjects, ministers and people, parents and children, masters and servants, &c. And there is a certain esteem and respect due to every one in his station. Now, with a disinterested in partiality, and with a perfect candour, and a hearty good-will, ought we to view the various excellencies of our neighbours, and consider their various stations, characters, and relations; and, in our hearts, we ought to give every one bis due honour, and his proper place, being perfectly content, for our parts, to be and to act in our own sphere, where God has placed us; and, by our fellow-mortals, to be considered as being just what we are: and indeed, this, for substance, is the duty of every one in the whole system of intelligent creatures. As for God most high, the throne is his proper place, and all his intelligent creatures have their proper places, both with respect to God, and with respect to one